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Genoa winemaker wins state group’s top honor

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
(David Thomas – dthomas@shawmedia.com)
Winemaker Rick Mamoser, of Prairie State Winery in Genoa, discusses his passion for wine at the production facility he co-owns with his wife. Mamoser was recently named Winemaker of the Year by the Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association.

GENOA – For years, Rick Mamoser made his own wine at home. But he never thought he would do so for a living.

“We asked if we wanted to keep doing this through retirement, making this commute,” Mamoser said of the hour-plus commute to the high school he taught at. “We decided for a change in our lifestyle, opening our small business ... we thought we’d give it a shot.”

His efforts at Prairie State Winery, 217 W. Main St., Genoa, have led him to being named the 2013 Winemaker of the Year from the Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association. Mamoser said he won the same award two years ago.

Mamoser’s passion for wine lies in dry reds.

“The biggest reason is that dry reds get the most attention,” he said. “It’s what people usually think of – Bordeaux and burgundies. Dry reds are the classic thought-of wine.”

With brands such as Kishwaukee Blue and Cabernet Franc, Prairie State Winery sells a variety of white, red, blush and fruit wines. Mamoser said he wants to appeal to every customer who walks through the door.

“I like to think I have a wine for every palate,” Mamoser said. “If someone comes in who has a very sophisticated wine palate, I like to think I have a nice dry red or dry white for them. But if someone comes in and doesn’t know anything about wine, I like to think I have a wine for very new palates.”

Every bottle of wine Mamoser sells is made on-site in the winery’s production facility. Mamoser estimates that he makes 12,000 gallons of wine a year, which translates to 54,000 bottles.

The grapes Mamoser uses are French hybrids which can adapt to the region’s cold winters. He added that when people think of American wine, the Midwest is becoming a part of that conversation.

“Minds are changing,” Mamoser said. “People aren’t thinking about United States wine in terms of West Coast and East Coast ... the Midwest is, other areas around the country are showing the kinds of quality wine they produce.”

Mamoser’s background as a high school science teacher with a master’s degree from Northern Illinois University has helped his wine. Modern winemaking has become a formula, he said, which includes focusing on the acidity and pH levels of grapes and the sugar content of the wine.

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